Physical meetings and virtual meetings both work well for business. That is, unless you plan for a virtual meeting as if it were a physical meeting, or plan for a physical meeting as if it were a virtual meeting.
When you plan a physical meeting, you need to take into account purely physical needs, such as the furniture, temperature of room, and lighting. If you’re going to use AV equipment or have participants work at a computer, you need to make sure that everything works properly.
These considerations also matter in a virtual meeting, but not in quite the same way. Participants are able to choose to sit in their own office, in this case. If they are in conference rooms in various locations, however, someone at each site needs to make sure that all of the equipment is set up properly.
According to Inc., a virtual meeting requires additional preparation. It does not have to be elaborate or expensive, though. Even the newest and smallest organizations can use online meeting technology. It requires only some kind of Internet connection, some combination of microphones and speakers for audio, and web cams and some kind of monitor for video.
That being said, all of this equipment puts a layer of technology between participants in different places. Whoever plans the meeting needs to understand how to change presentation and discussion techniques to account for this technological barrier.
Participating in a virtual meeting will require some means of logging into the meeting and may require downloading software. Everyone should receive all of this login information at least a day before the start of meeting. Whether they are going to a conference room or are sitting at their own desks, participants ought to login at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts. That way they can be sure they’re properly connected and ready to go.
Group leadership and membership
If the group is carrying on a discussion, the roles of leader and member are similar in both physical and virtual meetings. The leader prepares the agenda and conducts the discussion. According to an article at the Montana State University Extension, the leader acts as a gatekeeper, insuring that every member of group has a chance to participate. Naturally, some people in the group will be very verbal and confident, while others will be more hesitant and maybe even timid. The leader needs to be sensitive and tactful to make sure all opinions are heard and that the conflict of ideas does not degenerate into a conflict of personalities.
Members also have responsibilities. They should come to meeting prepared, having read whatever literature is made available to them in advance. They should come prepared to develop a viewpoint if they haven’t made their mind up on a matter before meeting. But on the other hand, they must recognize that not necessarily everyone will have the same view. Group members have as much responsibility as the leader to make sure the disagreements don’t degenerate into personal attacks.
Some basic matters of etiquette ought to be obvious. Everyone should be courteous to everyone else. Everyone should speak clearly. Everyone should wait their turn to speak and not interrupt others.
Special considerations for virtual meetings
Because of the technological barrier between people in different locations, everyone needs to keep in mind some special social standards in a virtual meeting. For example, you can’t maintain eye contact by looking people in the eye. You have to look into the camera.
Body movements people would hardly notice in a physical meeting can be very distracting on camera.
You have to be aware, then, of when you’re on camera. Make sure that your gestures are natural, and preferably not too fast. You may need to dress differently. Patterns that may look very good in room full of people can be very distracting on camera. The same goes for jewelry.
In fact, the combination of jewelry and microphones can create distracting sounds. The microphone may also pick up side conversations, jiggling keys in pockets, or any number of other sounds that might not be noticed otherwise.
Just as it’s necessary to learn how to adjust to the camera, it’s also necessary to learn how to speak into a microphone. It doesn’t matter so much if you’re using a boom microphone or a central microphone on the conference table. But if speakers stand at a lectern or pass a hand held microphone around, people in other locations will absolutely not be able to hear speakers who are too close to the microphone, too far away, or not speaking in the right direction.
If all of this technology seems daunting, remember that at least you don’t need to be too concerned about how to set up video meetings. Many video conferencing providers, such as, Blue Jeans, make setup a breeze.